Agriculture duo sweeps awards’ individual gongs

HELPING an Aboriginal community find and exploit a previously unknown commercial potential has won Department of Agriculture Indigenous management officer Kim Carter the ‘employee in a non-managerial position’ award in this year’s StateWest Achievement Awards.

Helping to complete the department’s clean sweep of the individual awards was research officer Rob Randall, who compiled a book on weed species to help in weed control efforts.

Mr Randall won the ‘employees in a managerial/professional’ capacity.

Mr Carter came into contact with the Noonkanbah people while working with the National Bruce-llosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign in 1997.

The people operate the Noonkanbah pastoral lease, covering 170,000 hectares about 200 kilometres east of Derby.

Mr Carter’s background in herd management and animal husbandry proved to be exactly what the station needed.

Over the next season his advice and work with Noonkanbah helped them to develop managerial plans that improved their operational activities and led to a more efficient muster and increased turn-off of cattle for sale.

Mr Carter also introduced new marketing approaches and liaised with cattle buyers.

And for the first time the station recorded sales to the premium live cattle export market.

Over the past five years the station’s export sales have increased steadily, from 286 head in 1998 to 736 head in 2002 – a jump of more than 250 per cent.

Besides enabling the Noonkanbah to develop a commercial enterprise, Mr Carter has also helped the people to sustainably manage their land resource – an outcome not often seen by Indigenous people living in such a remote environment.

Mr Carter is also playing a major role in a new interagency project that has developed a partnership between the Commonwealth Indigenous Land Corporation and the Department of Agriculture, based on his work with the Noonkanbah.

Mr Randall’s work in compiling A Global Compendium of Weeds is seen as a major step in helping to maintain the reputation of WA’s $4 billion agriculture export industry as clean, fresh and green.

Australian policy makers and weed researchers consider the publication to be a valuable resource.

In 1997 the National Weed Strategy put the annual cost of weeds to Australian agriculture at $3.3 billion.

Exacerbating the problem is the difficulty in predicting which plants will become weeds, and that is where Mr Randall’s work comes in.

His book lists nearly 22,000 separate entries of plant species regarded as weeds and plants with a high potential to become weeds.

The previous most comprehensive listing only counted about 6,400 species.

Mr Randall’s assessments of weed potential are used by the Agriculture Protection Board.

He spent six years compiling the book with a vision to counter the weed threat in natural and agricultural systems worldwide.

“If this compendium helps prevent the establishment of one new weed anywhere, it will be worth the effort,” Mr Randall said.

Along the way to completing the book, Mr Randall improved the way weeds were documented to allow quicker referencing for those in the industry and developed a mechanism to discover whether a plant has become a weed elsewhere.

Scientists consider the latter outcome to be the most important single predictor of weed risk.

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